5 Ways to Help Your Child Develop Good School Habits
There was once a man who wanted to lose some weight. He was quite heavy and had a difficult time doing most things. Plus, his doctor told him that if he didn’t change something, there would be consequences down the line. The man knew he couldn’t just do a crash diet or a month of exercise; it had to be a lifestyle change. But he knew he wouldn’t be able to change if it was too hard—and most everything was too hard.
So he made himself a promise. He promised himself that he would go to the gym every evening after work and just spend five minutes walking on the treadmill. Just five minutes.
And he did.
There were no dramatic changes, but he kept showing up every day for five minutes. After a while, he found that he had a little bit of energy left over and that he was a bit bored with the treadmill. He decided to pick up some three-pound free weights and just do five bicep curls one day after his walk. That felt pretty good. So, he decided he would add just those bicep curls to his daily routine.
Then he started looking at the other machines. Some of them seemed interesting so one day after his walk and his bicep curls, he tried a squat machine. Another day he tried a bench press. Eventually, the man built up his time at the gym into a full workout. His small habit at the beginning developed into a lifestyle change that helped him lose the weight he wanted to lose.
Developing new habits is not an easy thing to do. New things are uncomfortable and inconvenient. This is as true for your child as it is for you. Yet, you know that learning is important and developing good school habits can have huge benefit to your child, both now and later. So how do you help your child overcome the obstacles and develop good school habits? Here are five ideas for where to start.
1. Help your child figure out where he wants to go
The first thing the man in the story had to do was decide on where he wanted to get to. He wanted to lose weight. What does your child want? This can be as simple as “Be a better student” or as specific as “Get into Harvard.” The point is, you need to have your child decide on his goals himself.
You should definitely be a part of this process, after all your child is young and can’t necessarily see all the future consequences of his current choices. You, as an adult, are better positioned to do that. However, if you are pushing your child to adopt a certain goal without involving him, your child is unlikely to understand the importance of the new goal, and by extension the new habit, and probably won’t develop the habit.
2. Choose something small
Making a new habit means you are trying to permanently change your life in some way. That’s pretty tough! Our lives are the way they are for a reason and changing something—anything—isn’t trivial. That’s why, instead of trying to flip everything on its head all at once, we recommend that your child change something small.
Think of the man in the story. He knew he needed to make a big change, but he also knew that he wasn’t yet capable of it. So he made a small change first. Then, once that habit was ingrained, he increased it little by little. If your child struggles to do her homework, start small. What if your child does
ten minutes of homework every day after dinner? Or even five minutes, just to get started? It’s not going to immediately result in straight A’s, but she is going to get into the right habit. Once this new habit becomes automatic, then she can build up from there.
3. Make it easy
The reason the man in the story chose five minutes of walking on a treadmill was partially because it was a small change but also partially because it was easy. Even he could walk on a treadmill for five minutes! Because it was something he knew he could do, he was more likely to continue doing it.
For your child, perhaps have him do his favorite subject for his five minutes of homework. If he likes math, then let him do five minutes of math problems. If he prefers English, five minutes of writing. For science or literature, five minutes of reading or worksheets. Work with your child to use these five minutes in such a way as to make him want to do another five minutes tomorrow.
4. Decide on a time
One of the things that can make a habit easier is if it is built into your schedule. The man in the story went to the gym every evening. He had planned it into his life. So, when he decided to increase his workout, he was in the right place and had the time to do so.
We tend to overschedule ourselves and try to maximize our time. Part of what can be intimidating about September is the sometimes-massive shift from a laidback summer schedule to a packed fall schedule. This doesn’t leave much room to develop in any direction. Instead of trying to do everything all at once, leave space to add more as your child is able to, especially as she is trying to build a new habit.
5. Don’t get stuck
Not everything is going to work for everybody. If you and your child start with one habit and it is making your child hate learning, you should definitely try something else! Pivot to a different habit or a new direction. Part of being human is finding ways around obstacles and discovering unique solutions to problems.
Your child may have issues related to academics as opposed to habits. Of course your child won’t want to study if he doesn’t understand the concepts and just ends up feeling stupid. Getting extra help to fill in some of the blanks can be a game changer and make your child much more likely to develop his daily homework habit. Have your child reach out to his school to see what resources it offers or help your child schedule an appointment with a tutoring service. A tutor can both help with hard subjects and create some habit accountability with a weekly appointment.
Spark Tutors knows that making a change and asking for help can be tough. We are proud to support your child in creating and maintaining new school habits as well as guiding your child through difficult concepts so he can have confidence in his ability to work through and understand hard things.
We hope this article encourages readers to take even one step forward in a positive direction. New school habits aren’t always easy, but little by little, they can change your life for the better. We’ll see you at the tutoring table!